Posted on November 03, 2017 in Countdown

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Exploiting Tragedies Left and Right

We were all shocked by the horrific ISIS-inspired attack that took place in New York, killing 8 people. What added insult to injury was the orange president’s rush to exploit the fact that the attacker was an immigrant in order to go after political opponents and our immigration process, as well as to promote xenophobia. But when a far bigger attack took place in Las Vegas just a month earlier by an American-born assailant, the conversation included policy discussions of gun control, and the White House was adamant that it was too soon to “politicize” the tragedy. The double standard was bluntly called out by many, including Senator Chris Murphy who tweeted, “Now I get it. If the killer is an immigrant you can talk about policy change, but if he's natural born, you're ‘politicizing the tragedy’.” The hypocrisy wasn’t only noted by an illustrative graphic by the left-leaning Center for American Progress, but even by the conservative National Review (though they offer the caveat that “all politicians do this”). It’s true that many politicians engage in double-standards, but this isn’t about calling out contradictions so we can say “gotcha!”, it’s about understanding how xenophobia spreads, and doing what we can to challenge this un-American climate.


When Your Social is Hateful

If 5 years ago we told you that Congress would question Facebook, Twitter, and Google regarding their roles in Russia’s election manipulation to ultimately elect Donald Trump as US President, you would’ve told us to stop writing fiction. Yet, here we are!  It was revealed that as many as 126 million Americans may have seen some of the 80,000 pieces of Russia-created content on Facebook and 2,752 Twitter accounts have been linked to Russian propaganda (check out some of them) . Much of this content was aimed at exploiting existing social and political divisions in the country, though they seemed to be curiously absent of Harambe memes (don’t google those). While the focus on foreign interference in the election is merited, it shouldn’t distract us from the bigger problem: Russian trolls using insidious impersonations and venomous propaganda were only able to blend into our timelines undetected because our social networks already allow hate to get organized there. That’s why we joined other civil rights organizations in calling on Facebook not only to fully disclose all of the activities on their platform that trace back to Russian operatives, but also to work with us to meaningfully counter the impact of hate campaigns on their platform (you can read our full letter here).


Disturbing Theory on Bin Laden Files

You’ve heard about the CIA release of hundreds of thousands of new files related to Bin Laden, but you may have missed one disturbing analysis of the motivation behind it. According to Ned Price, a former National Security Council spokesperson who resigned from the CIA over the Trump presidency, the release of these documents is not about transparency, but about tying Al-Qaeda to Iran in some way, to justify a more confrontational policy towards Iran. Price describes CIA director Mike Pompeo as “the administration’s leading and most influential Iran hawk”, and likens this effort to the Bush Administration’s effort to tie Al-Qaeda to Iraq to justify that invasion some 14 years ago. Another odd development supporting this narrative is the fact that the “CIA provided FDD’s Long War Journal with an advance copy of many of the files” (FDD is a hawkish policy institute advocating against the current Iran deal). If this is indeed part of an attempt to build on Trump’s efforts to undermine the Iran deal, we could be in for more bad news. Coming to think of it, we probably should just change ‘Countdown’ to ‘bad news’ to better accommodate the times we live in.


100 years since Balfour

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which the British promised to give away a land that doesn’t belong to them, with total disregard to the indigenous people living on that land. Well, it wasn’t really “total” disregard, there was this one line about “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” but as history proved it, these lofty concerns were nothing more than empty words. Despite hundreds of thousands of Palestinians being exiled from their homeland with the creation of Israel, Palestinians eventually recognized Israel and sought a homeland in a mere ⅕ of historic Palestine, namely the areas Israel illegally occupies today. 100 years after the initiation of Western support for the creation of the state of Israel, the struggle for the creation of more modest homeland for indigenous Palestinians remains under assault. 


Supermodel Destroys Troll

Practically everyone knows former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who has a whopping 50K Twitter followers. Yet Twitter doesn’t give Duke a verified badge, presumably because it doesn’t find his bigotry worthy of the legitimacy afforded by its verification badge. But in the current climate, the same isn’t true of prominent anti-Muslim bigots, from Pamela Geller to Laura Loomer and many others, who are verified on Twitter. In the aftermath of the NYC terrorist attack, Loomer tweeted a picture of ordinary Muslims walking around Manhattan in hijabs, and claimed that their mere presence in the area says that Muslims are celebrating terrorism. It’s not that an idiotic troll on Twitter can say dumb and hateful things, it’s that an idiotic troll on Twitter can say dumb and hateful things while posing as an “investigative journalist” with a verification badge, and can get a couple of thousand retweets on such a horrendous tweet.  We first thought we were annoyed by this line of tweets, but we found out an Arab American supermodel with over 7 MILLION followers on Twitter (yes, the one and only Gigi Hadid) was more annoyed. She tweeted back at Loomer saying: “Laura, I hate to give you the attention, but I need to tell you- You're a moron.” She actually didn’t just say “moron,” but we keep it PG13 on Countdown, so you’ll have to see her tweet yourself.